Tag: Women’s Issues

A Feminist in the Kitchen: Modern Hestia

Hestia - Goddess of the Hearth. A man drew this. You can tell both by his name and the fact that the virgin of the hearth is showing major nip.

Hestia – Goddess of the Hearth.
Goals. She’s literally holding fire in her bare hand, while still looking put together. (And no, being able to see her nipples doesn’t make her less of a feminist.)

I’ve been thinking about Hestia lately, the virgin goddess of home and hearth. Basically, her story goes like this: she was pursued by both Apollo (the god of the sun) and Poseidon (the god of the sea), but rejected both of them and chose to remain a perpetual virgin in order to keep the peace.

As a reward, Zeus gives her the duty of maintaining the fires of the Olympian hearth.  Oh, and the hearth isn’t portable, so she was rewarded with a life in the kitchen… forever.

On the one hand, Hestia is a model for feminism, choosing not to marry and instead rejecting both of her suitors. On the other hand, she is now trapped in the freaking kitchen forever, an incredibly subordinate role. Is that what she really wanted?

Really? 

Hey Hestia, good job there on keeping the peace and giving up all future sexy funtimes. Here’s your reward, you see that kitchen over there? That’s all you. Oh, and that fire’s not gonna tend itself. Yeah, you’re gonna be pretty busy and stuff so you won’t really get to hang out with the rest of us either, but uh, thanks again.

I won’t lie. That seems like a pretty raw deal. And although I already know the answer to this (hint: it has to do with wieners) why did she have to be a perpetual virgin? It’s not like fidelity was a big deal in Olympus. Gods know Zeus had sex with anything that moved. This sounds a bit like the whole double standard of the woman you want to have sex with versus the good girl you want to marry (or trap in your kitchen forever).

Hestia is also considered to be the most gentle, charitable, and kind of all the Greek gods… but really how hard is that. I’m sorry if I offend any of my currently practicing Hellenist friends here, but I’m gonna say it, Zeus is kind of a dick. It doesn’t take much to seem nicer than him. Yet, a point is made to say that Hestia is gentle and kind. It’s a nice image: sweet, gentle, Hestia, who will hang out in your kitchen stoking your fire all day (and that’s not an innuendo because she doesn’t put out).

Does the contradiction of Hestia versus the more empowered goddesses reveal an understanding of the complexity of women’s roles? Or, does it just set up an impossible standard for women to meet? We all know those guys who want a Hestia on the streets and an Aphrodite between the sheets, but aren’t those two ideals mutually exclusive?

I know I struggled with this idea, but not for too long, because I lost my eligible-to-be-rewarded-with-a-life-in-the-hearth card a looooong time ago. Virginity, perpetual or otherwise, wasn’t on my agenda. And as a young woman, I hadn’t considered the prospect of staying home and tending the hearth.  I just assumed I would be out wreaking havoc in the working world in some way. The idea that getting married and having a child would mean I would want to be home was inconceivable to me.

Now, as a modern woman who is highly educated, has career options, and yet is choosing to stay home while my son is young, there is a feeling of empowerment in the reclamation of the hearth as my domain and in seeing it as a reward rather than a punishment. I am choosing to cast aside the modern gods of wealth and martini lunches to keep the peace with my boys. I am here feeding the hearth fires by choice, though I am definitely not a virgin (insert whistle here).

So, here I am, feeling like one big contradiction, part Hestia and part Aphrodite, but keenly aware that I have the luxury of making that choice. And maybe, that’s the real task of modern womanhood — to embrace all of the contradictory aspects we’ve been taught about the divine feminine and to simply accept the pantheon within us.

I’ll leave you with my spoken word track of Hestia — a brief exploration into my role as a not so virginal hearth keeper:

Contemplative Ennui at the Blanton Museum of Art

I am standing in a museum surrounded by marble statues of people from worlds long gone; they are echoes of some other unreal time. History is like that to me, it never feels real.

I pick a bench in a sunny, windowed corner to sit and write. I’ve come here to try to dispel the dark clouds that have been chasing me this week… to try to numb the swollen ache in my heart. I thought the art might help, that it would give me something to look at so I could get out of my head for a little while. Maybe, it would ease some of this ridiculous pain. Instead, I feel every piece. It’s like they’re all playing on the same vibration as this depression; each one feels like a thumb pushing on a deep bruise.

The Blanton Museum of Art - Austin

I am mourning an inexplicable loss, something that doesn’t exist, has no resolution, and I am powerless to make myself feel whole. I’m a control freak, so this kind of thing sucks. All I can do is wait it out.

Is it her? Is that what they like? I compare myself to every woman who walks by and every piece of art. Notice how imperfect I am. I have a thing for perfection, or rather for being perfect.

Recently, I started to people-watch and noticed for the first time in my life how men will stare at certain women. Grown men will slow their cars to watch a young woman in shorts cross the street, a woman in a dress walking past the entrance to West Elm causes a conversation to halt while the three men crane their necks to watch her walk by. It is creepy, this level of unabashed focus that I’m seeing men devote to a woman who is merely crossing their path. I’ve never paid attention to it before, and now I can’t unsee it. It’s everywhere and I feel like I’m losing a competition. I’m pretty enough, but my strong suits have always been humor and intelligence… not the kind of things that random men notice when I walk down the street.

The modern art made me sadder. I can’t really explain why. I stared at the replicated cardboard box, sleeping bag, pack of cigarettes, marble sculpted trash bag. A marble trash bag… that’s what I feel like sometimes… a waste of materials and talent.

I can’t let go. The sky is divided – filled partially with angry sun and heavy, dark clouds. They tease rain, but won’t let it go. It is both sunny and potentially stormy, I’m caught in the tension.

The statue in front of me has no head or arms, and is missing its legs from the knees down. Incomplete or damaged, I don’t know. It’s only a replica, so I feel nothing when I look at it; none of the artistic energy of the real one is there.

I whisper to the universe, If you ever loved me, let the rain fall.

What about that statue, the topless one. I wonder if they prefer the curve of her breasts; if she meets the standard. I wonder how many would turn to look at her in a crowded restaurant or bar.  Even minerals are my competition. I stare at her breasts and feel a sense of loathing for her – for her perfect breasts, their shape and lift, for her look of contentment. I feel an alliance with the male statue across from her: poorly endowed, exposed, and forced to stare forever at her ample perfect chest.

I am not enjoying marble today.

I leave and enter the calm quiet solemnity of the masters – perfect imperfection – ample bodies and vacant empty stares. I stand for a long time in front of a Flemish portrait of a man with a curved mustache. His look is so sad; he’s pale, anemic. He stares at me while I examine his facial hair. It’s so realistic; I can’t even see the strokes. I want to climb into the painting and touch his mustache.

It’s cool and dark in here which matches my mood. All around me are paintings of saints and sinners. I’m stuck, standing still in front of The Visitation. I think it’s about the Virgin Mary but all I can focus on is the donkey in the corner staring at me, upstaging everyone else. He’s looking at me as if to say, “Pfft, I know, right?” I nod. I like this room, everyone in the paintings looks like they’re rolling their eyes.

I walk a few steps, but I’m stuck again, this time in front of another portrait of a man with sad eyes and a mustache. Maybe I stop here because he’s looking at me, while everyone else is looking off to one side – like they know they’re in the painting, but want to act casual. This guy though, he looks right at me, and I can feel his hurt or maybe he feels mine… or maybe his collar is too tight.

I leave the dark cool space and find myself in the hallway, assaulted by sunlight. The clouds look like they are giving up and the sun is claiming the sky. I feel heartbroken by the brightness, I turn and give one last look at the donkey who still gets me, scoff warily at the giant reproduction of a milk carton near the entrance, and head towards my car to find that despite the sun, one cloud – one persistent cloud – waited for me, and gives rain to blanket my path.

Video – The Vagina-Mommy Incident – LTYM 2013

Earlier this year, I was chosen to read an essay about motherhood as a member of the 2013 cast of the Listen to Your Mother Show.

It was an amazing night full of wonderful stories by talented writers all celebrating motherhood. I was so honored to be a member of the cast this year.

Here is the video of me reading my essay, The Vagina-Mommy Incident. It’s about the time I thought it would be a good idea to tell Kai the proper name for our genitals and how great that went…

Thank you so much Ann Imig for creating this wonderful event! And, thank you to Wendi Aarons, Liz Mcguire, and Blythe Jewell for producing the Austin show so that I could get up and say the word vagina over and over in front of a room full of people. It is an experience I will always cherish.

The 2013 Cast of Listen to Your Mother Austin

Everyone Has an Agenda

I drew this comic last year and thought I would re-post it this week in celebration of the supreme court ruling on the defense of marriage act.

The Homosexual Agenda - The Truth Revealed!

I spent a good portion of my week at the state capitol building protesting a bill that would restrict women’s freedoms in Texas. When you try and explain things like sb5 and doma to a 5 year old boy and he looks at you like you’re crazy… not because you are fighting them… but because they even exist in the first place, it really puts it into perspective. Let’s all stop trying to control each others bodies and hearts. No one loses when we let others pursue happiness.

And if I have to pull out my mom-voice, I will: If you don’t like what he’s doing, then don’t do it. No, I don’t care if it’s bothering you. Just go sit over there then. Why do you care what he’s doing? Is it hurting you? Are you losing anything? Did he make you do it, too? No? Okay, then, now you go do whatever makes you happy and he’s going to do what makes him happy, and I don’t want to have to come in here again. 

First Day of Summer – Pale Girl Edition

Seeing as how today is the first day of summer, I feel it would be appropriate to celebrate this day by saying, omg, I can’t stand summer.

I’m not a fan of summer for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I get SAD in the summer.

Summer SAD Homer

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or its cutesy acronym SAD) is depression that occurs during certain times of the year.

Most people who have the disorder get it in the winter because it gets dark and they get mopey and are all,

Maaaaaan, I miss summer,

and I’m like,

Whatever losers! Woo Hoo! Dark and cold rocks! Let’s run naked through the woods!  – right in their sad faces.

Now, however, it’s summer and I’m sad and moody and the rest of the world is like,

Yay summer! A million degrees! Sweating! Pools! BBQ’s! Mosquitoes trying to eat off our faces! or whatever. (Also, I am very sorry about getting all up in your faces last winter.)

So yes, most people who get SAD get it in the winter, but there is a summer version and it is the more rare form of an already rare disorder:  “About 5 percent of adult Americans are thought to have winter seasonal affective disorder; researchers estimate that fewer than 1 percent have its summer variant.”  Or so says the New York Times.

I’m one of those less than 1 percenters…  because I’m all pale and mysterious so I get cool disorders that make me hide away in my dark house most of the day… and when I do venture out I’m withdrawn and moody, wear big black sunglasses and sigh dramatically.

Researchers are still unsure if it’s the heat or the light or a combination of both, For me, it’s not so much the heat (though omg it sucks), it’s the light… more specifically the WAY the light is shining. It’s too bright, it’s coming in at a weird angle. I feel out of sync with the rhythm of the planet at this time of year. My circadian rhythms are off, I feel out of sorts. My pockets hurt.

It’s like my brain is now cued for sunset instead of sunrise. I feel “weird” all day and fight off melancholy, and then as the day wanes and the light shifts, I feel okay again. Usually around 8 pm every night I start to feel the depression lift and I am suddenly and inexplicably myself again.

Off and on for the next few months I will battle this depression, and it sucks.

On the one hand, at least I know what it is. On the other hand, I hate knowing that it is a real thing and not just my imagination. Honestly, I think that this disorder affects more than one percent of the population. My facebook, twitter, and blog feed are filled with friends talking about feeling down for no reason right now. It almost seems that as a society we’ve become so desensitized to the seasons and nature that maybe we aren’t aware that as the planet moves, as the seasons change, that we, too, are affected.

Unlike the winter variant which involves staring at a lightbulb (or something), there is not a lot to help with summer SAD.

Summer Sane Homer

So, I fake it and make myself shower and work and all those normal human things even though I am totally not feeling it. I try to avoid pacing. I try to make myself sleep like a normal human. I watch Doctor Who. We pick our Halloween costumes and start working on them. We begin planning our big fall vacation. And when I feel like I can’t breathe, when I feel like this will never end … I will stop and breathe and try to remember that this will pass. It will take a few months, but it will pass.

Needless to say, our family will be hiding inside most of the summer, at least during the day. And when you invite us to your “It’s a million degrees – Let’s sit in direct sunlight and get sweaty – We love summer extravaganza!” parties… and you will… I will smile politely, thank you enthusiastically, and then silently count the days until fall. Oh, and next winter, when the tables are turned, I promise not to get all up in your sad face again.